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Cheerfully Chopping up the World

Michael Wood: Film theory

2 July 1998
The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium 
by Gilberto Perez.
Johns Hopkins, 466 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 8018 5673 6
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On the History of Film Style 
by David Bordwell.
Harvard, 322 pp., £39.95, February 1998, 0 674 63428 4
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Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine 
by D.N. Rodowick.
Duke, 260 pp., £46.95, October 1997, 0 8223 1962 4
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The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema 
by Jean Mitry, translated by Christopher King.
Athlone, 405 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 485 30084 2
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Signs and Meaning in the Cinema 
by Peter Wollen.
BFI, 188 pp., £40, May 1998, 0 85170 646 0
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... exceptionally exact perceptions’, in Kuleshov’s phrase, can do for the viewer who is prepared to stay and look. ‘Why do you think we have suddenly become so interested in early cinema?’ PeterWollen asks at the end of the new edition of his Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. ‘It’s more than archaeology. It is to regain a sense of cinema as potential, not yet frozen into the world ...

Mad Monk

Jenny Diski: Not going to the movies

6 February 2003
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 963 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 316 85905 2
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Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Anthony Lane.
Picador, 752 pp., £15.99, November 2002, 0 330 49182 2
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Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film 
by Peter Wollen.
Verso, 314 pp., £13, December 2002, 1 85984 391 3
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... and wondering if his other judgments were as solid as they seemed to be. If Thomson had liked Titanic (he didn’t), I’d have bothered to stop for a fight. In Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film, PeterWollen makes no mention of Titanic, and one would rather hesitate to mention it to him. He writes as an academic, which does not mean he loves film any less than Thomson, but does mean that his love ...

At The Whitechapel

Peter​ Campbell: Gerhard Richter

8 January 2004
... are photographs taken in Stammheim prison after the suicides of Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin – the images from which the paintings in the series October 18, 1977 were made (PeterWollen wrote about them in the LRB of 5 April 2001). Some of the images are out of focus; a few have had grids drawn over them or been extended: indications that they are the source for a painting on ...

Hitting the buffers

Peter Wollen

8 September 1994
Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 318 pp., £27.50, April 1994, 0 19 811746 9
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... In the summer of 1913, Jacques Copeau, the French stage pioneer, who had just founded his Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris, wrote to Duncan Grant asking him to prepare the costumes and design for an innovative production of Twelfth Night. Grant completed the commission, using fabrics from the Omega Workshop for the costumes, and went over to Paris the following February to attend rehearsals and ...

Diary

Peter Wollen: In the Tunnel

28 April 1994
... Our cosmopolitan party converged on Arras from east, north, south and west, to be gathered together and loaded onto a tourist bus and driven to the Channel Tunnel reception centre at Sangatte, near Calais. There things took an unexpected turn. We were issued with special boots, hard hats, goggle-like glasses and – most alarmingly – yellow oilskins. The last time I had worn these was on a visit ...

Unembraceable

Peter Wollen

19 October 1995
Sex and Suits 
by Anne Hollander.
Knopf, 212 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 43096 2
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... My first thoughts, in connection with suits, are of Lucky Lucan, Joseph Beuys and the Thin White Duke, at the head of an imaginary horde of accountants, dandies, clubland heroes, zoot-suiters and funeral directors. It has taken me some time to realise that the question of suits is indeed a crucial question, not only about fashion but about sexual identity, national culture and art history. My slow ...

The Last Hundred Days

Peter Wollen: Kassel’s Mega-Exhibition

3 October 2002
Documenta 11 
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... Late in August I visited Documenta 11, the most recent version of the mega-exhibition that has been held in the German city of Kassel since 1955, when Arnold Bode, a professor of art at the Kassel Academy, decided to organise an international art show. It achieved such success that it soon became a crucial element of Kassel’s character as a city, once the arms industry had gone. Documenta 11 dominated ...

Beyond Zero

Peter Wollen: Kazimir Malevich

1 April 2004
Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 
edited by Matthew Drutt.
Guggenheim, 296 pp., $65, June 2003, 0 89207 265 2
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... Kazimir Malevich was the most enigmatic and the most provocative painter of the early Soviet period. He can be seen as a pioneer of abstraction and of the minimalist works produced many years later by such artists as Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Yves Klein. Or he can be regarded as a folk artist, or as a visionary who proposed to launch his Suprematist constructions and artworks into outer space ...

Scaling Up

Peter Wollen: At Tate Modern

20 July 2000
... The first breakthrough in the transformation of the South Bank of the Thames came in 1951 with the Festival of Britain, which established this stretch of riverside as a public space, and brought in its aftermath the Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre and, on the other side of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Waterloo Bridge, the new National Theatre. The next came in 1977, with the foundation of the Coin ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan

16 October 1997
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... depressing of all, is made up of the sort of itchy, perfunctory essays which, in this format, do few of the authors any favours at all. Mercifully, there is one essay here, by one of the editors, PeterWollen, which is useful in helping you get the connection between Warhol’s commercial drawings and his big silkscreens, between the fashion pages and The Factory, and the role he came to assume ...

Thatcher’s Artists

Peter Wollen

30 October 1997
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... abstract either. They are taken from the pharmacological coding-system in which dots are used to indicate the properties of various drugs. Not only do they turn out to be textual paintings, cousin to Peter Davies’s painted list of the top one hundred all-time hit paintings: they effect a stealthy return to Hirst’s pre-occupation with the body and with disease and death. Keith Coventry’s white on ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch

17 February 2000
The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... the level of popularity itself’. In Magic Realism Rediscovered: 1918-81, Seymour Menton argues that a group of artists whose work Greenberg summarily dismissed as kitsch – among them, Grant Wood, Peter Blume and Andrew Wyeth – should be seen in a line of descent from Le Douanier Rousseau and Chirico, artists Greenberg at least took seriously. Menton was struck by the sharp focus of Magic Realist ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen

6 April 1995
Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... Judith Collins’s words, wanted to turn her own home into ‘the approximation of a stage-set for a Diaghilev ballet’. The influence of the Ballets Russes went much deeper than décor, however. As Peter Jacobs writes, it supplied a model of ‘a pagan liberty and a savage beauty, combined with a stylised severity or formal purity’, a liberty and a beauty embodied, one might add, in Nijinsky’s ...

Stalin at the Movies

Peter Wollen: The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism by J. Hoberman

25 November 1999
The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism 
by J. Hoberman.
Temple, 315 pp., £27.95, November 1998, 1 56639 643 3
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... J. Hoberman’s book, appropriately enough, is a cinematic montage of reflections on the long-drawn-out demise of the former Soviet Union, seen through the eyes of a New York journalist and film critic: a process that began with the death of Stalin and ended with the sale of chunks of the Berlin Wall in Bloomingdale’s. Hoberman chronicles these events from the point of view of three related personae ...

Leave-Taking

Peter Wollen: Baader Meinhof Studies

5 April 2001
Gerhard Richter: ‘October 18, 1977’ 
edited by Robert Storr.
Museum of Modern Art, 151 pp., £30, November 2000, 0 87070 023 5
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... In June 1995, the Museum of Modern Art in New York announced that it had acquired a series of 15 paintings by the German artist Gerhard Richter, collectively entitled October 18, 1977. At 11 p.m. on 17 October, the prison officer in charge of the four prisoners on the seventh floor of the high-security wing of Stammheim prison in Stuttgart had noted in his night duty report: ‘23.00 hours. Baader ...

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